What to Look for at Pac-12 Football Media Day

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What to Look for at Pac-12 Football Media Day
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12 will hold its annual college football media day at the Sony Studios Lot in Culver City, Calif. on Friday, July 26.  The one-day affair runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT with 12 coaches and 24 players answering questions from the media. Each team gets 15 minutes at the podium. 

Because of the short amount of time allowed per team, the focus of the questions will be strictly on football. Each coach and his respective players will address key issues for his team.

The story lines are fantastic. 

 

Arizona

Coach Rich Rodriguez will address how his defense should be improved this season. Returning 11 defensive starters is a great situation to be in, but his defense underachieved last year due to youth and inexperience.  

There are two controversies that will be brought up. The Tuscon City Prosecutor's Office has dropped its disorderly conduct and assault charges on running back Ka'Deem Carey, according to the Daily Wildcat. This should clear the way for Carey to make a run at the Heisman. Carey was selected as the No. 1 running back in the nation by College Football Live, according to the report.

Rodriguez will also be peppered about who his starting quarterback will be. B.J. Denker, Jesse Scroggins and Anu Solomon are all in the mix. Rodriguez will not make a decision before fall camp, but he will be asked about it nonetheless.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Commissioner Larry Scott

Linebacker Jake Fischer and receiver Terrence Miller will be in attendance.

 

Arizona State

Coach Todd Graham is bringing quarterback Taylor Kelly and defensive tackle Will Sutton. Kelly will be asked about his offseason activities (drag racing) and how well he has adjusted to Graham's offense. Sutton will be asked about how good the Sun Devils defense is and whether or not expectations are too high. Note—it is that good and expectations should be high. 

The players will also talk about how much more disciplined the team is under Graham and the positive changes that have been made and maneuvering through a gauntlet starting on September 14. In a four-week stretch, Arizona State plays Wisconsin, at Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in Arlington. 

Don't be shocked if Arizona State is picked to be the South division's champion by the West Coast media. 

 

Cal

New head coach Sonny Dykes will have an interesting day. The Bears return only 11 starters from last year's 3-9 team under coach Jeff Tedford. Dykes has installed a Bear Raid offense, and he'll have to explain vertical set blocking to the media.

For the uninitiated, vertical set blocking requires the linemen to step back four or five paces and then set up a new line of scrimmage. The theory is that blockers can more easily recognize stunting or blitzes and react more quickly. This new scheme will be talked about and questioned extensively. So will Cal's roster, which shows 20 wide receivers. 

Dykes added a new receiver to the corps. Hawaii receiver Trevor Davis will transfer to Cal this fall and will sit out this season. 

Receiver Bryce Treggs will be in attendance as well as linebacker Nick Forbes.

 

Colorado

The Buffaloes' new head coach Mike MacIntyre is bringing receiver Paul Richardson and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe. Of all the coaches at this event, MacIntyre should have the most fun because the benchmark for the program's improvement is extremely low. Buffalo football has been terrible. Last year Colorado went 1-11 and lost to FCS' Sacramento State. Expectations are optimistic, albeit tempered.

Fans should be impressed with MacIntyre's miraculous turnaround when he was at San Jose State. How he will use his experience to do the same at Colorado will be addressed.  

 

Oregon

All eyes will be on first-year head coach Mark Helfrich. He has no head coaching experience and despite being Chip Kelly's offensive coordinator, he was not calling the plays—Kelly was. Helfrich will be questioned on possible offensive changes and what the transition from offensive coordinator to head coach has been like. 

Quarterback Marcus Mariota and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will also be at the podium. Mariota is a legitimate Heisman contender. Running back De'Anthony Thomas is also a contender. We should hear some insight from Mariota about what it is like to share the spotlight with incredible offensive talent. We can also expect some questions on the NCAA's light sanctions resulting from an investigation of the program's recruiting and scouting practices.

 

Oregon State

Head coach Mike Riley is a very good interview. Ask him anything and he will give you an honest answer. This year he'll have to address who his starting quarterback is—Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz. He will also discuss the ramifications of losing receiver Markus Wheaton to the NFL and how Brandin Cooks may or may not have his best year as a result. 

The Beavers' schedule is back loaded. Their last five games are against Stanford, USC, at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon. Maybe he will be asked why Oregon State chose Stanford as its Homecoming Game opponent on October 26 instead of Colorado on September 28. 

Riley is bringing Cooks and cornerback Rashaad Reynolds. 

 

Stanford

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
David Shaw

Head coach David Shaw is bringing guard David Yankey and linebacker Shayne Skov. Yankey is a bit of a surprise as quarterback Kevin Hogan seemed like the obvious pick. But Shaw is sending a message: The Cardinal's Big Uglies are the reason for their success. 

Shaw will be asked about the very high expectations for the team this year. He will be asked (again) about the controversial ending to last year's game at Notre Dame. Expect to hear about the return of running back Tyler Gaffney after taking a year off to play baseball. 

 

UCLA

The Bruins are back-to-back champions of the Pac-12 South. They lost running back Johnathan Franklin to the NFL and have not named a starting running back to replace him. This should be a topic of much discussion. What won't be a topic of discussion is who will start at quarterback. Brett Hundley has that position locked down and could be a Heisman sleeper.

Head coach Jim Mora is the perfect coach to give his opinion on the new targeting rule which calls for an ejection of a player who commits that foul. Mora should give some excellent sound bites on this subject. 

Mora is bringing guard Xavier Su'a-Filo and linebacker Anthony Barr—Barr will be asked why he made the decision to return for another year. 

 

USC

Head coach Lane Kiffin is bringing receiver Marqise Lee and linebacker Hayes Pullard. Most of the media's focus will be on Kiffin's hot seat and the Trojans' unsettled starting quarterback situation. The front seven will also be a focus. This spring the defense looked nasty against the run although it is hard to glean great insight from no-tackle scrimmages. 

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Lane Kiffin

Lee is a Heisman contender.  With Robert Woods off to the NFL, Lee may be double-teamed on every play. Will that prevent another Heisman performance year? Or will his numbers go up due to Woods' absence?

What should be asked: Is the 13-game regular-season schedule a problem for a team with depth issues at many positions? 

 

Utah

Head coach Kyle Whittingham had an uncharacteristically poor season in 2012, going 5-7. This year the offense looks loaded, but the defense is a question mark since defensive linemen Joe Kruger, Dave Kruger and Star Lotulelei are gone. 

Expect Whittingham to talk about having Dennis Erickson as a co-offensive coordinator, the running back situation and the Utes' brutal schedule. The Utes play Utah State, Oregon State and BYU in September. They have one stretch where they play UCLA, Stanford, at Arizona and at USC. Two weeks later they play Arizona State and at Oregon.  

Tight end Jake Murphy and defensive Trevor Reilly are making the trip with Whittingham. 

 

 Washington

Steve Sarkisian is in his fifth year as head coach of the Huskies. With an overall 26-25 record, Sarkisian could be on the hot seat if his team cannot get past that seven-win season mark. With 18 returning starters and a remodeled Husky Stadium, everything points to a make-or-break year.

Sarkisian is bringing quarterback Keith Price and safety Sean Parker. Price had a somewhat inconsistent season although he should not shoulder all of the blame. The offensive line suffered numerous injuries. According to Phil Steele's Preseason Magazine, there were six different linemen combinations in 13 games. 

Expect to hear someone ask Sarkisian why the passing numbers have trended up and the rushing numbers down in the last five years. 

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Leach

 

Washington State

The Cougars averaged a paltry 29 yards per game in 2013, which puts them ranked last among all 124 FBS teams. Head coach Mike Leach is known for his Air Raid offense, but he has to run the ball more. This has been discussed ad nauseam. We should hear more of the same when Leach takes the podium. Safety Deone Bucannon and center Elliott Bosch will be in attendance. 

Someone will ask Leach a random question. This will cause him to mull it over in his head while articulating out loud, much to the media's delight. There may also be another bear hunting question.

Hey, the SEC has Steve Spurrier. The Pac-12 has Mike Leach.

The Pac-12 does a great job with Media Day, and 2013's will be very informative. It won't be as crazy as SEC Media Days, but fans will enjoy the fast pace and coaches' personalities. 

 

Note—Lisa Horne will be attending Pac-12 Media Day and will provide live updates via her Twitter account.

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